Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

google is your butler- the tension between utility and privacy

Filed under

I’ve often defended Google’s thirst to know things about people with a butler analogy. Good software should, like a butler, try hard to understand your preferences and act on them for you without you even realizing they are there. That means learning and remembering things you’ve done in the past, and using that to base recommendations on.

Like a butler, you want your tools to work intelligently based on context and history, and Google is without doubt one of those tools- for many of us, the most important single tool in our computing lives. The problem, of course, is that your butler has a lot of incentives to keep your private information private.

Google’s incentives run at least partially the other way- they have strong incentives to mine that data extensively, to share it with others, and to collect well more than most people might think is useful, in the name of being the ultimate butler. And these incentives lead to risks- incentives to share with third parties that you might not trust; risks that things might be subpoenaed; risks that they might leak to Google employees or even outside Google; risks that effective advertising might use such information to manipulate your political views. On balance, most of us are going to look at these issues and decide that we’re OK with Google knowing these things, because the risks are remote and the benefits tangible. So we acknowledge there is a tension between privacy and functionality, and move on.

Rest Here

More in Tux Machines

Openwashing (Fake FOSS)

Android Leftovers

Slackware Live Edition – Beta 2

  • Slackware Live Edition – Beta 2
    Thanks for all the valuable feedback on the first public beta of my Slackware Live Edition. It allowed me to fix quite a few bugs in the Live scripts (thanks again!), add new functionality (requested by you or from my own TODO) and I took the opportunity to fix the packages in my Plasma 5 repository so that its Live Edition should actually work now.
  • Updated multilib packages for -current
  • (Hopefully) final recompilations for KDE 5_15.11
    There was still some work to do about my Plasma 5 package repository. The recent updates in slackware-current broke several packages that were still linking to older (and no longer present) libraries which were part of the icu4c and udev packages.

Leftovers: Software

  • Resuming work on Yokadi
    A few weeks ago we started working again on Yokadi, our command-line oriented, todo list. We are now finally ready to release version 1.0. This new version fixes a few bugs but does not bring new features. This lack of new features is actually a conscious decision: we wanted to make changes under the hood, and doing changes under the hood at the same time as adding new features is often a recipe for disaster.
  • remctl 3.10
    remctl is a simple and secure remote command execution protocol using GSS-API. Essentially, it's the thinnest and simplest possible way to deploy remote network APIs for commands using Kerberos authentication and encryption.
  • rra-c-util 5.9
    A minor release of my C utility library, including some changes required for the previous release of pam-afs-session and the upcoming release of remctl.
  • Feeding Emacs
    For the past fifteen years, I have been tweaking my ~/.emacs continously, most recently by switching to Spacemacs. With that switch done, I started to migrate a few more things to Emacs, an Atom/RSS reader being one that's been in the queue for years - ever since Google Reader shut down. Since March 2013, I have been a Feedly user, but I wanted to migrate to something better for a long time. I wanted to use Free Software, for one.
  • ELKI 0.7.0 on Maven and GitHub
    Version 0.7.0 of our data mining toolkit ELKI is now available on the project homepage, GitHub and Maven.